Hoops: Short-Handed Horns Move To 5-0

Despite a pair of injuries, No. 2 Texas could not be slowed and the Longhorns rolled by Louisiana-Monroe with a 90-55 win Saturday at the Erwin Center to improve to 5-0 on the season.

Brad Buckman did not suit up and watched the game from the bench after suffering a minor hip injury, and Dion Dowell also missed the game with an ankle injury.

The biggest obstacle in the way of the Horns looked to be themselves in the first half, with Texas launching bricks from behind the arc, shooting just 4-of-17 from three-point range (23.5 percent) in the half. While the guards struggled from long distance, Texas had no problem scoring points in the paint, and the Horns finished the first half shooting 48.5 percent from the field.

In the second half, UT's shot selection improved and the Horns connected on 4-of-9 from the perimeter (44.4 percent) and shot 51.6 percent from the field.

LaMarcus Aldridge led the way for the Horns with 21 points and the center continued his double-double streak with 11 boards, while F P.J. Tucker finished a perfect 9-for-9 from the field for 19 points after coming into the game as Texas’ leading scorer.

"P.J. has always had really good ball skills and he has spent a lot of time working on his jump shot," said coach Rick Barnes. "If he's open he's going to take the shot, and he's not going to take a shot he's not comfortable with."

The Texas bench came alive in the game, with G A.J. Abrams and C Connor Atchley having the best performances of their short careers. Abrams racked up 10 points, including a pair of three pointers, and Atchley finished with nine points. Forward Mike Williams also stepped up big and finished with 12 points while taking Buckman’s place in the starting lineup.

"When a guy like Buck (Brad Buckman) is out, a guy who puts up big numbers, somebody has got to pick up the slack," said Tucker. "Mike (Williams) came in and did a pretty good job and Connor (Atchley) came in and did a great job of filling that void."

The Texas shooters came out sloppy to start the contest with G Kenton Paulino and Daniel Gibson missing early three pointers. With the score tied 4-4, Texas went on a 13-0 run with Aldridge tallying six quick points off a field goal, free throws and a dunk. Abrams took a Gibson pass during the run and drained a trey, ending Texas’ long range drought.

After another Abrams three pointer, Aldridge threw down another dunk and tacked on a foul shot to give Texas a 25-12 edge with 12 minutes left in the first half. Gibson finally drained his first perimeter shot six minutes later, and after Atchley connected on a three pointer of his own, Tucker tossed in a layup to cap off an 8-0 streak and put Texas ahead 37-17.

Gibson finished the game just 3-of-12 (25.0 percent) from the field.

"It's going to come around," said Gibson, regarding his three-point struggles. "I have been practicing a lot and I don't think it's going to be a problem. I'll knock them down eventually."

With Gibson struggling, Abrams proved to be the team’s more effective point guard, tallying five assists while coming off the bench.

"I felt pretty comfortable today," said Abrams. "I like passing the ball and getting people open shots, so I think I'll take the role of playmaker over shooter."

The Indians followed with an 8-0 run of their own until Williams followed up a Gibson missed three pointer with a field goal. With Aldridge nailing a jump shot and Paulino finally getting on the board, Texas entered the break with a 43-29 lead.

The Horns came out much stronger in the second half with Tucker making his first-career three point shot to start the period. After Gibson drove the baseline for a layup, the Horns went up 50-32. Texas continued working the ball down low with Tucker, Aldridge and Atchley scoring the next 16 points for the Horns.

With Gibson tacking on a free throw with just over six minutes to play, the Horns pushed to a 30-point edge over the Indians. Williams scored eight of his points in the final five minutes as Texas finished up a 35-point win.


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